|Ma Long is 2015 World Champion|
Ma Long had the weight of the world on his shoulders, tipped as the dominant force on the World Tour and yet when it came to the World Championships he couldn't prevail, not once but on 3 occasions. At all 3 opportunities he was defeated by Wang Hao. Coincidentally once Wang Hao retired, Ma Long became the 2015 World Champion.
The big mental barrier we suggested was plaguing Ma Long was that he couldn't perform in major events. Now he has made a breakthrough and he is looking more dominant than ever. This poses the question, how good are his chances to win Rio?
Making the Cut
I would say Ma Long is probably leading the race to represent China at the Olympics at the moment. You could say Zhang Jike is top contender but with his recent slumps in form and lack of strong results, injuries and absence from the Super League it's possible that Ma Long is a little more set in place in the meantime. I think if Ma Long can continue the dominance he is showing now then he will most definitely be playing singles at the Olympic Games in 2016.
Do I see Xu Xin as a contender? Yes. But he is going to have to really put in the work if he wants to get there. ZJK has the advantage of being defending champion, Ma Long of being WR 1 and World Champion. Xu Xin doesn't have much to go on to obtain a top 2 spot and so it's going to be an uphill battle for him. I can see him being the third member in the team competition.
The Rio Lineup
Ma Long has a fairly solid record against foreign players and so given the chance I can see him making the final if he holds his current form (peaks at Rio) or improves on it. The question will really come down to which Chinese player he could end up facing for a gold medal, should that be the scenario. In an Olympic Final I think Ma Long would have the upper hand on all other national team players with the exception of Zhang Jike.
Seeing how badly Ma Long disposed of Fan Zhendong at the World Champs really reinforced in my mind that he has learnt how to rise to the occasion and step up that extra gear against his peers.
Of course with Zhang Jike you never know, their World Cup encounter proved quite a spectacle, including Zhang Jike's antics and absurd fine for his behaviour. The good news is we have never really seen Zhang Jike whitewash Ma Long in a match, but we have seen some pretty dominant displays from Ma Long in his wins. That means Zhang Jike knows in order to have a chance at winning he really has to put it all on the line, I think Ma Long is still very much the dominant player in a head to head.
Wait and See
So first Ma Long will have to make the cut and achieve one of the two places for China in the Olympic Singles event, then he will have to win all of his matches. If he can take the confidence he has and hit peak form then I think it's definitely a very real possibility that we could see Ma Long win the Olympic Games and achieve a career Grand Slam.